In My Resolute Kitchen

I always make New Year’s resolutions, like most everyone else, I expect. Some I may even manage to adhere to throughout the coming year. And, if we are being honest, other resolutions will fall by the wayside (again, like most everyone else). For the most part this resolution making – a list of good intentions – is a knee-jerk reaction as the old year winds down.

kitchen_clock_featureKitchen clock watching….

Here are a few of my resolutions for my New Year: travel more (will be proactive and make sure this will happen), reduce the clutter of our lives (difficult when you are one of life’s little hoarders), finish things I’ve started (a perpetual resolution, so an uncertain outcome), write more – other than blog posts (possibly, but we all know the muse is fickle at times). In fact, I’ve resolved to post less on the blog this year, but still keep to a regular schedule. That, I hope will leave time for writing up all those unfinished research projects cluttering my desk – thus fulfilling several resolutions at once! Other resolutions are general life-style choices like health, exercise, diet…. You know, the usual.

However, there are a few specific ones related to the kitchen and/or blog.

Resolution: continue to make my own bread and become a better baker.

There is something quite magical that happens when flour is measured, when water or butter or eggs are mixed, when wild yeasts activate, when sugars sweeten. All sorts of lovely creations – sweet and savoury – can be created. Breads for certain, but pastries, cakes, cookies, biscuits and scones.

Last month we celebrated the arrival of Muriel, daughter of Priscilla, the sourdough starter sent to me by Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. (Anyone spot the Aussie ABBA connection?) Amazingly, the dry starter took less than a week to travel from Australia to the UK! I love the stamps. The starter was activated and bread made – although before Celia posted her step-by-step guide on making sourdough! The starter produced amazing bubbles and the bread looked and smelled so good that I forgot to take a photo before cutting off the end and slathering on some home made strawberry jam.

Muriel_sourdough

To aid me in keeping to this resolution were a few new cookbooks under the Christmas tree to add to my collection: Crust, Pastry, and Patisserie Maison. They are all by the fabulous Richard Bertinet, who has attained pop-star status in my kitchen. The new books are now housed on the kitchen shelves next to his other book, Dough. I now feel supremely confident in tackling all sorts of baking – from yeast and sourdough bread making to pastry to cakes and confections.

bertinet_books

In fact, his shortcrust pastry method described in Pastry has transformed my pastry into lovely buttery, flaky crusts. I’ve even went so far as to create my own puff pastry! No more store-bought packets. The secret is in handling the butter – so satisfying to beat the block of cold butter between sheets of greaseproof paper. But, for more of the technique, you have to read the book – no spoilers here!

puff_pastry_double_bookedDouble booking… One of the techniques.

Resolution: continue to adhere to the economical concept of les delicieux petites restes, making creative use of leftovers and seeing that nothing is wasted.

Dealing with the Christmas turkey has certainly set me on the right track. There was the usual post-holiday turkey curry, turkey enchiladas, turkey and ham pie (topped with some of that homemade puff pastry), and turkey croquettes. Also lots leftover for turkey sandwiches! Yes, we roast an enormous bird, just able to fit into the largest oven.

turkey_croquettesSteps in making those turkey croquettes.

Even the carcass was boiled to produce litres of rich turkey stock resulting in two meals of soup. The first was a spicy harrisa chickpea and tomato turkey soup and the other a hot and sour turkey-vegetable soup packed with hot chili peppers, Chinese leaf, snap peas, carrots, spring onions and mushrooms. There are still bits and bobs of turkey meat, picked off the bones then packed and frozen, for making little phyllo packets of Moroccan inspired turkey bastilla at some point in the near future.

turkey_hot-sour_soup

With half a jar of cranberry mincemeat left after all those mince pies made earlier, I dolloped a bit into my flapjack mixture, giving them a nice fruity-spicy flavour. There’s even some left over for a strudel, enhancing them with some homemade puff pastry now that I know how to make it! Or, I’ve been toying with the idea of mincemeat scones. Now the only thing left is some ham – split pea soup for sure. And, since ham has an affinity with beans, I can make a dent in my large supply of a variety of dried legumes in the pantry. I love how these recipes are economically drawing on ingredients I have to hand.

mincemeat_flapjacks

Resolution: attempt to take better images for the blog as well as general photography.

Hmm…not sure how this might happen, but I’m willing to give it a shot (if you will excuse the pun!). There are so many wonderful role models among my blogging friends who produce lovely professional looking photos of their food creations or captivating images of places they visit. And though I am technologically minded for the most part, I am all thumbs when it comes to cameras. I have usually relied on the inbuilt camera of my iPad – and “enhancing” (or do I really mean “fixing”?) with Photoshop. HOWEVER, my lovely husband has handed down to me his old digital Canon after my Christmas gift to him of an improved version with multiple lenses – very whiz bang with enough features to keep any gadget-lover happy. I can see that a careful scrutiny of the manual + a lot of trial and error is in store for me in the coming months. No doubt future posts will contain some (hopefully) improved photographic efforts! Wish me luck!!!

camera

Meanwhile, we celebrated the New Year with Vasilopita – the Greek bread for Saint Basil (Greek Ayios Vasileios) whose saint’s day is January 1st. And, also the smashed pomegranate on the doorstep, but you can read about these particular customs in my last January IMK post – In My Pomegranate Kitchen.

vasilopita_2015

Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous New Year!

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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33 comments

  1. Debi, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen such huge bubbles in a starter, and I’ve had Priscilla pretty fired up and active before! How wonderful! Muriel is just the best name and your loaf looks fantastic, hope it was equally as delicious! I loved Bertinet’s Dough, was less taken with Crust, but I’ll now have a look for his Patisserie book as well. You have done a magnificent job with turkey leftovers! 🙂

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    • I was amazed at those bubbles! And, it wasn’t even that warm in the kitchen. Muriel is still going strong and regularly producing lovely bread – even wonderful crunchy baguettes. I love all of Bertinet’s books, but you are right, some are better than others (i.e. Dough is better than Crust, but the latter is still good). The Patisserie book is great, but my current favourite is Pastry. It has the best tutorials on all sorts of pastry and some good examples on how to use them.

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  2. Those sourdough starters have gone to the four corners of the earth haven’t they? I did spot the Muriel/Priscilla Aussie connection – very clever. Envious of your turkey stock as we love turkey but never have it as a bird because a) it’s huge b) it’s summer! Still I can live vicariously through you and your hoard of legumes. Thanks for the festive tour. cheers Fiona

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    • If we had Christmas in summer, I wouldn’t cook a turkey, either. However, I do love it at least once a year and the leftovers always seem to be a bonus. Once Muriel has a chance to produce some more, I may send out little grandchildren of Priscilla to even more corners of the earth. It is a great way to share the food we love. Happy New Year!

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  3. You sound well on your way with your baking resolution – homemade puff pastry!?! Congrats. Have fun with the rest of your resolutions – I went rogue this year, refusing to make even one.

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    • The puff pastry is actually a doddle! However, it is so buttery and filled with calories, that I can see that I will need to restrict how much I make. However, it is a great technique to have tried, if not yet mastered.

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  4. I really love your posts. I think you can do it all. I love your dedication to bread. I’ve been wanting to make a sourdough too! I’ll have to give it a try. Happy New Year to you!

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  5. I also love your pomegranate tradition! In Judaism, there is a tradition where you eat the pomegranate seeds on the new year for similar reasons. So cool how pomegranates resonate throughout the world.

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    • A very (very) belated Happy New Year to you, too. I love the custom of eating pomegranates on New Year – much less wasteful than smashing it on the door step, although, a tad bit less dramatic!

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  6. So, 2015 is full of promise! I know you’ll succeed. I’m so envious of Celia’s Priscilla offspring and the wonderful loaves they are producing, but wheat is still a no no for me. Love your choice of names. I adore having leftovers in the kitchen, you did the Christmas leftovers proud. Good luck with the camera. I am a keen photographer, my advice is to keep in mind that photography is about light, but a photographic image is a composition that is pleasing to the eye. It’s not unusual for me to take 20-30 shots to get one that pops, usually having circled the house, plate in hand looking for the ideal light and backdrop.

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    • Well, since you are one of my role models mentioned in my post, I will certainly take your photo tips seriously! I will also have this image of you carrying a plate of food around, chasing the light, as I attempt to find the perfect shot! Just after the holidays, I metaphorically roll up my sleeves and get cracking with leftover solutions. However, after a while, I am glad (GLAD!) to see the last of them. Francesca (@ Almost Italian) now has prodded me into cleaning out the pantry shelves, using up stores of canned and dry goods. It is equally as challenging as those leftovers! But, meanwhile, the bread making goes on at a regular schedule. Muriel has yet to disappoint.

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  7. Hi Debi – a very Happy New Year to you! A terribly sensible list of intentions which sound like they will happen, well, other than the reduction of clutter which I completely sympathise with. Celia has been so brilliant sending Priscilla everywhere – mine is called Twinkle and she’s been amazing. Jake can’t get enough of the bread and I am now gearing up to get a little fancier. I’ve already dried some to send out but I am testing it first to make sure that it fires up. I always love seeing what is going on in your kitchen but this month it’s extra special because of Muriel x

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    • Muriel and Twinkle – sisters! I am certainly enjoying the bread made from Muriel. She makes brilliant baguettes. I need to find out how to dry the starter, so I can send out pieces of Muriel as well. Looks like sourdough is taking over the globe!

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      • Priscilla seems to be taking over the globe, that is for sure!! I haven’t tried baguettes yet – hmmmm…. Just thinly spread the starter that you would normally throw out, onto parchment or silicone paper and leave it out to dry – one or 2 days should do it. Then blitz in the food processor and freeze or refrigerate. You need 1 Tbsp of dried starter to start the feeding process…

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  8. Wow, that starter is scary! Bit envious I must admit, mine just sits there quietly bubbling away, might need to call mine Queenie. Good luck with the camera, there will be more good food now I think. Any reason to get a photo works. No resolutions for me, I never make promises I know I can’t keep 🙂 Cheers. Maree

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    • I alway make resolutions, but I am realistic enough to realise that only a few of them will be met. That’s enough for me – any small steps achieved are beneficial. Yes, those bubbles were scary! I wondered if there was something in the wild yeasts (beasts?) of Australia… Well, soon the yeasts of Northern Britain will mingle and tame her somewhat! The bread, however, is continuing to be amazing as I am sure yours is with Queenie.

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  9. Happy New Year, Debi! I too had similar resolutions last year, the ones about baking bread and better photography (I failed in both). But with the attitude you have presented here, I know ‘you’ will succeed in all! It was an interesting read! 🙂

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    • Happy (belated) New Year, Fae! I cannot see how you failed with photography… Your food photos are lovely. But, come to think of it, I haven’t seen any bread posts on you blog! I love sourdough bread making, but I tend to make plain loaves. I really must be more adventurous. Lately, I’ve seen posts on sourdough pancakes… Might be something to try. Watch this space!

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  10. Great to see you are on the breadmaking path with your new starter, Muriel. I am rather impressed by that slab of puff pastry sitting on the bench, and must learn a few pastry tricks too. The camera resolution is also one of mine this year. I have never read the manual so will be taking it away with me to work through sl,owly. Good luck with the Canon- it looks very handsome.

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    • Both you and Sandra (aka ladyredspecks) are role models regarding photography. It is a wonder that both of you feel the need to improve – a good sign of a dedicated photographer. I am leap years behind you both! Well, I will start simple and let the camera tell me what to do before I start on some of the more complex manual features. Puff pastry has now become an obsession, but definitely one that I need to regulate or the waistline will suffer! Bertinet’s book, Pastry, has wonderful tutorials on all sorts of pastry. A great book to get out of the library!

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  11. Good luck with your resolutions – especially the one to have tidier desk/declutter which is something I struggle with particularly. The Greek festive bread looks amazing. You’ve given me a nudge to go and take my Richard Bertinet pastry book off the shelf and actually use his method (rather than just reading about it).

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    • Thanks! I think I might need a bit of luck with all these resolutions. Probably bit off more than I can chew! You will love the simplicity of the Bertinet book. I never knew I was a bit heavy-handed with mixing dough before. No wonder I had never managed light flakey crusts. But now my pastry has really been transformed!

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  12. What a great idea to have kitchen/blog resolutions! I will have to think about some others, but I certainly share your resolution about working on my photography, the first step being to work out how to use our camera 🙂

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  13. Clever uses if turkey leftovers. We also had turkey for Christmas and ate it for days on end in so many different ways. My favorite would have to be stock though since I can use it for many recipes. Great looking sourdough too, Priscilla has been busy traveling the globe!

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  14. Great resolutions. Coincidentally, one of mine this year is to try making puff pastry! And I just spent the last two weeks decluttering, inspired by a really interesting but slightly insane book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. You’re supposed to toss everything that doesn’t give you joy, which is inspiring but dangerous advice. I could have ended up with only chocolate, mixing bowls, and books!

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    • Puff pastry really isn’t as difficult as it appears, but time consuming. Good luck trying it. I think the same technique is used in making croissants which have always daunted me, but now feel a bit more confident in attempting. I’ve heard of that book by Marie Kondo and I agree that it is a dangerous thing to throw things out just because they no longer give you joy (such an ambiguous concept). I usually have to think long and hard before I get rid of anything – and then usually try to recycle them rather than simply trashing them.

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